Droplets of water drip down slowly from the faces of the believers as they finish performing ablution. Sleepy eyes now wide open as minds are once more awakened and bodies are revitalised and ready. Whilst the rest of the world is seemingly asleep, the moon shines like a glorious lamp in the starlit sky, as feet are placed firmly on the ground, bodies turned in the direction of prayer and hands raised in surrender to their Lord. This is Qiyaam al-Layl.
Qiyaam al-layl is simply translated as ‘The standing at night.’ It is known to be similar to the Taraaweeh prayer, except that Qiyaam al-layl can be performed in any month and on any night, whilst Taraaweeh prayer is specifically performed in Ramadan. This voluntary prayer can be performed any time after the night prayer, Ishaa, until the break of dawn and is deeply beloved to God Almighty.
Qiyaam al-layl is a beautiful means of drawing close to God Almighty, a means of achieving His love, mercy and eternal pleasure, as well as His greatest reward; Paradise. This is because most people would rather sleep, than stand at night to converse with their Lord. Thus, those who strive to perform this prayer are investing in their Hereafter and are taking an extra means to draw near to their Lord.
The prayer is called Qiyaam al-layl and is only slightly different from ‘Tahajjud’. The latter is prayed after one has slept for a while whilst the former is prayed without a break for sleep. Tahajjud is in fact even more rewarding in the sight of God Almighty, as the believer must make an extra effort to get out of bed and sacrifice their sleep.
These prayers are characterized by their long standings in which large portions of the Qur’an are generally recited. Thus they are recommended acts of worship as they allow an individual the time to reflect, ponder and review the verses of the Qur’an they have memorised. They are a time of strengthening one’s relationship with God Almighty and the Qur’an through voluntary worship.
Both the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad both speak about the great merits and virtues of this voluntary prayer. For example, God Almighty makes mention in the Qur’an of a group who will enter Paradise for they prayed the night prayer.
تَتَجَافَىٰ جُنُوبُهُمۡ عَنِ ٱلۡمَضَاجِعِ يَدۡعُونَ رَبَّہُمۡ خَوۡفً۬ا وَطَمَعً۬ا وَمِمَّا رَزَقۡنَـٰهُمۡ يُنفِقُونَ
“They (the believers) forsake their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope; and they spend out of what We have bestowed on them.” [As-Sajdah (32): 16]
كَانُواْ قَلِيلاً۬ مِّنَ ٱلَّيۡلِ مَا يَہۡجَعُونَ
“They (the pious) used to sleep but little at night.” [Ath-Thariyat (51): 17]
In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has mentioned the excellence of the night prayer numerous times. He informed us that the most beloved prayer to God Almighty was that of Prophet David (peace and blessings be upon him), who slept one half of the night, got up (and prayed) for one third, and then slept (the remaining) one sixth [Bukhari].
And so we see that Qiyaam al-layl is a special prayer, which has been gifted to those who want to seek the forgiveness, mercy and pleasure of God Almighty and strive to be beloved to Him. It is not only a gift but a beautiful honor through which God raises one’s rank in this life and the next.
Perhaps praying Qiyaam al-layl every day is too difficult for some, however one should try their best to perform this prayer once a week, once a month, or even at least once in their lifetime.
So dear brothers and sisters, struggle and strive to pray Qiyaam al-layl so that you can be amongst those people who used to pray in the depths of the nights seeking the Face of God Almighty. God is the All-Seeing and the All-Appreciative and will reward you manifold in return for your sacrifice and your standing in the depths of the night whilst the world sleeps.
We ask God Almighty to gift us with the ability to stand the long nights in worship of Him and to grant us the manifold reward that is rewarded exclusively to those who perform Qiyaam al-Layl.
- Take it slowly. Burn in, rather than burn out! Begin with a few units of this voluntary prayer and then build up.
- Remember to eat lightly and stay hydrated. This will make praying the Qiyaam prayers easier.
- Try to read a portion of the translation of the Qur’anic verses that will be recited that night so that you know what is being recited to you whilst praying. You will find this will help you to not only concentrate better but also to have a closer sense of connection with God Almighty.
- Strive to stay consistent with these prayers even after Ramadan ends. Even if it simply means praying an extra 2 units of prayer before sleeping.